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Africa > Southern Africa > South Africa > Free State > Motheo > Bloemfontein

Bloemfontein

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Bloemfontein (Fountain of flowers, Afrikaans pronunciation: [ˈblumfɔntəi̯n]) is the judicial capital of South Africa. It is also the capital of the Free State Province.

Understand[edit]

Bloemfontein was founded in 1846 and now has a population of around half a million people.

J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings, was born in Bloemfontein in 1892. Despite the Tolkien's fame, there is surprisingly little commemorating him in the city.

In 1923, the African National Congress (ANC) political party was founded in Bloemfontein.

Today, Bloemfontein is a compact city surrounded by sprawling suburbs.

The city centre is safe to walk around during the day, but many of the city's activities are focused on the Waterfront and Mimosa malls and on the large sporting complex. Second Avenue, north of the Waterfront mall, has the majority of the city's bars and restaurants.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

See Air travel in South Africa for more information.

By train[edit]

Bloemfontein is a major rail junction in the middle of South Africa, however services have been reduced to trains from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth and East London three times a week. Trains are run by Shosholo Zameyl. 2 Bloemfontein railway station is in the city centre, on the corner of Maitland and Harvey streets.

By car[edit]

The N1, N6 and N8 national highways meet in Bloemfontein, making it easily reachable from any part of the country.

The N1 northbound from Bloemfontein towards Gauteng is a toll road.

Distances[edit]

By bus[edit]

A number of bus services offer connections to major South African cities.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

As with most of South Africa, it is best to hire a car.

See[edit]

  • Anglo Boer War Museum, Monument Road, +27 51 447-3447. For a history on the war 1899 to 1902
  • [dead link] Boyden Observatory, +27 84 429-9080, e-mail: . Explore the southern skies under dark and clear Free State conditions
  • Choet Visser Rugby Museum, +27 51 436-4124. By appointment only.
  • Fire Station Museum, Erlich Park Fire Station, Church Street, +27 51 405-8730, e-mail: . By appointment. 17 vintage fire engines, cars, bikes steam engines and even ox wagons.
  • National Botanical Garden, Rayton Road,off Dan Pienaar Drive, +27 51 436-361, e-mail: . 8AM-6PM daily. R10 entrance fee.
  • National Museum, 36 Aliwal Street, +27 51 447-9609, e-mail: . M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM, Su noon-5:30PM. Home to the Florisbad skull. R5 entrance fee.
  • Naval Hill and Franklin Game Reserve. Daily 8AM-5PM. The reserve has various wild animals (nothing dangerous) and is located on top of a hill overlooking the centre of the city. There is a driving circuit weaving around the edge of the hill. You can also park the car near the observatory and go for a walk / have a picnic. free.
  • Oliewenhuis Art Museum, 16 Harry Smith Street, +27 51 447-9609, e-mail: . M-F 8AM-5PM, Sa 10AM-5PM. Outstanding art museum in a beautifully restored Cape-Dutch style house and gardens. Oliewenhuis hosts ever changing temporary displays of contemporary art and photography, whilst upstairs is a more traditional permanent exhibition. There is a very nice cafe in the sculpture garden at the back and is the ideal retreat from the city's sterile shopping malls. Free entrance.
  • Women's Memorial.
  • Presidency Museum, Pres. Brand Street, +27 51 448-0949. Tu-F 10AM-12:15PM and 1PM-4PM. This former residence of presidents of the Orange Free Stare Republic has been restored to what it would have been at the turn of the century.
  • Queens Fort Military Museum, 116 Church Street, +27 51 447-5478, e-mail: . M-F 10AM-12:15PM and 1PM-4PM price=. Exhibitions on the two Boer wars and the apartheid struggle.
  • [dead link] SA Armour Museum (West of town, follow Nelson Mandela (R64) west towards the N1, you'll see a sign). The SA Armour Museum, on the grounds of Tempe Military Base, exhibits various items dealing specifically with military armour. The SA Armour Museum consists of an indoor-, outdoor-, and reference library area. Some of the more interesting exhibits include South African built apartheid era riot control vehicles, and some old Soviet tanks the South African's captured in Angola.

Do[edit]

  • Go to the Waterfront
  • Play a round of golf
  • Visit one of the numerous game reserves in the area and go sightseeing / hunting
  • Take a walk through the tree-lined President Brand Street and visit the various museums
  • Take a drive through the northern suburbs and see the lush gardens
  • Visit the City Zoo just behind the Waterfront shopping mall. This zoo is home to a stuffed Liger a cross between a lion and a tiger, that was bred at the zoo in the 1930s. This specimen holds the world record for being the largest ever living cat. And at 798 kg you can see why!
  • Soetdoring Nature Reserve (about 40 km from Bloemfontein on the main Bultfontein road). closes at 6PM. A pleasant Free State nature reserve close to Bloemfontein. What sets it apart are the lions in the small enclosure in the middle of the park – although the enclosure is big enough to mean that you are not guaranteed to see the cats. The rest of the reserve is pleasant with open plains, wooded areas and a dam – there are no dangerous animals in the main park so walking is allowed. There is a one-day hiking trail which follows the Modder River, easy enough for families with young children. R20 per car.

Learn[edit]

Buy[edit]

The ongoing expansion of the Waterfront mall means that Bloemfontein now has two branches of each of the standard South African chain stores (the other branches being in the Mimosa Mall 2 km up the road). There is a craft market near the Waterfront mall on the first Saturday of the month. Many shops close Saturday afternoons and all day Sunday.

Eat[edit]

People eat early in Bloemfontein - even by South African standards, if you arrive at a restaurant after 7:30PM, especially on a weeknight, you may get some funny looks from the staff, and rushed service as they try to get you out the door so they can lock up and go home.

  • Fishpaste restaurant and bar, 31 President Steyn ave, Westdene, +27 51 430-2662. The place to go. Excellent food in an interesting atmosphere.
  • Mexican Restaurant, 19A Second Avenue Westdene, +27 51 430-4526. There isn't much that is Mexican about this place, except for the big Aztec statue that overlooks the dining area. Seafood and steakhouse. One of the city's more upmarket steakhouses. Fantastic food and service in a beautiful restaurant with a selective bar.
  • 1 Cape Town Fish Market, Eeufees Road (Northridge mall), +27 51 436-6148. Branch of the popular CTFM chain. Worth the trip into the northern suburbs.
  • Beethoven's Cafe Restaurant, Victorian Square, Second Avenue, +27 51 448-7223. A good choice for breakfast, lunch or a light dinner, and a tad more sophisticated (by Bloemfontein standards) than the chain restaurants in the shopping malls. The only downside is that the terrace overlooks the car park.
  • New York's, 60 Medene Centre, Second Ave, +27 51 447-7279. One of the better steakhouses in town, although not the best. Not a bad choice for families.

Drink[edit]

Sleep[edit]

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under R500
Mid-range R500 to R1000
Splurge Over R1000


Budget[edit]

  • Bains Caravan Park, 31 Kimberley Rd, +27 51 451-1115. R190.
  • Naval Hill Backpackers, Belville drive, +27 51-4307266. Dorm beds. R130.
  • Tuscany Lodge, 3rd Avenue (Opposite the Medic Clinic), +27 51 447-3399. Spotlessly clean and functional hotel in a good location equidistant between 2nd Streets restaurants and the Waterfront mall - and Mimosa mall is a 10 minute walk. Secure parking, full English breakfast, en-suite bathrooms, air conditioning and DSTV. A good alternative to the considerably more expensive City Lodge up the road. under R350 a room.

Mid-range[edit]

Splurge[edit]

Connect[edit]

Stay safe[edit]

Bloemfontein is much safer than most other cities. You can walk around downtown during the day time (although it will be eerily quiet after the shops close). The Waterfront and other shopping malls are safe and patrolled with 24-hour security, and 2nd Street (the main restaurant strip) is fine day and night. The dodgy areas to avoid if possible are near the train station and anywhere east of the railway lines (where the traditional townships are located).

Cope[edit]

Go next[edit]

This city travel guide to Bloemfontein is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.